It’s Thanksgiving this week here in the States and if there’s one thing we like more than wiping out an indigenous people, it’s stuffing our faces while patting ourselves on the back for how great we have it. In the spirit of the holiday there are a number of things that I’d like to give thanks for in the world of comics this year, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that some recent real-world events have made the idea of celebration unappealing. So, before I list off some of the great stuff I’m thankful for, I’ll start with a thing I wish I didn’t have to be thankful for.
Diversity in Comics
Another Thanksgiving is about to pass where I apparently need to be thankful just for being born a white male and therefore, get to live in a world of different rules. This is a comic book site, one very much fueled by a shared passion and respect for their ability to impact people’s lives, so I won’t shift the focus to rant or editorialize on subjects too far outside that realm. But I will say this, I am thankful for the current diversity found in the comics’ world and think that it desperately needs to continue to grow. I’m thankful there’s a Miles Morales, that there’s a Kamala Kahn, that there’s John Stewart, Eric Henderson, Michonne, Ororo Munroe, Vic Stone and Sam Wilson donning the mantle of Captain America. I’m thankful because I simply cannot imagine being a young comic book fan who has been told by the world that their life matters less than others because of the color of their skin and then try to find escape from this harsh reality only to see that the world is also saying that there’s no such thing as a black superhero. Or a female hero or a hero of a different faith or a LGBT hero. And I truly mean that I literally cannot imagine that because my personal demographic (straight white male) has largely been catered to through entertainment and specifically comic books. One of the great aspects of the superhero genre is that even when it seems silly or corny, it can still inspire people. Inspire people to be better and do better. But that’s a harder message to swallow when the ones providing this inspiration never look like you. That is changing, and changing for the better so that those who are marginalized daily for simply being can be told that their voice matters as much as anyone else’s. There’s a long way to go, obviously, but hopefully we’ll get to the point where we can all just be equally thankful for comic books that make us feel like anything is possible.
Okay, onto some less sobering bits of thankfulness:
Comic Book Movies & Television
Um, do you guys remember the Joel Schumacher Batman films? That was the state of silver-screen comic book adaptations not that long ago. “You’ve come a long way, baby.” We are now in a golden age of comic media, where there’s about to be nearly twenty television shows ranging from The Flash to Jessica Jones to iZombie and movie studios announce their plans for superhero films six years in advance. That is bananas. Do you remember the spectacle that was the Marvel Studios announcement, or as I refer to it, Nerd Christmas? It was akin to an iPhone release event except with less Siri and more T’Challa and that is the greatest gift of all. Sure, the films and TV shows currently out there can be picked apart and critiqued, but by and large they’re mostly pretty damn good. They’re light-years away from bat nipples in any case.
While a lot of the actual hard data is shrouded in mystery, we do know that digital comic sales were up roughly $20 million dollars from 2012 to 2013, accounting for nearly 15% of all comic book sales. For folks just getting interested in comics, because of the movies or games or toys, digital comics are a welcoming gateway that were once the province of 7-Eleven spinner racks. Huge catalogs are available to browse with a swipe of the finger and the on-demand culture we live in is fully accommodated by having the ability to instantly purchase and read whatever comic you desire without ever having to leave your couch. Colorists are receiving better recognition by having their work presented in the same format it was created in without losing quality and clarity through the printing process. New work is being created specifically for the digital market through Comixology’s Submit feature, Thrillbent, Panel Syndicate, Monkeybrain and more. Comic books are now being seen by thousands of eyes that never would have had the opportunity or the inclination to and the industry is stronger because of it.
The Continued Rise of Creator-Owned Comics
Specifically, the continued growing market share of Image Comics and their winning formula of welcoming established names and rising stars alike the opportunity to produce their own intellectual property under a banner of innovation. Quick, name your five favorite ongoing series right now. I’m willing to bet at least two of them are from Image. And one probably begins with an “S” and end with an “Agaaamygodarethoseogretesticleswhatishappening?!?!” I’m thankful that a growing number of creators and a growing number of consumers want to see wholly original ideas covering a myriad of genres introduced to a market that has largely been dominated by capes.
Batman ’66 Blu-Ray Set
Because, come on. That this is finally out and presented in such amazing quality is nothing short of a Bat-Miracle. For years this series was stymied by silly litigation, forever destined to be replayed on bootlegged copies that would make your heart go MEH! instead of ZONK! But no longer, chums. I’m thankful that such a large part of my own childhood (from syndication, as I was -18 years old when it originally aired) has been restored to a never-before-seen glory and that a huge part of Batman’s legacy can find new life for a hopefully new audience as well as the nostalgia-lovers.
Jack Kirby and Bill Finger
After lengthy legal battles, slander, and a host of other general human ghoulish-ness, Jack Kirby’s name now appropriately adorns the credit pages of dozens of Marvel comics as “Creator” and for the first time in the character’s 75-year history, Bill Finger’s name appeared on the cover of a Batman comic book. They deserve every ounce of recognition and more, but I am thankful that these two names continue to have relevance and command reverence for anyone who ever lost themselves in wonder while reading one of their creations.
For those celebrating, Happy Thanksgiving. Think about the things you’re thankful for, think about what others are thankful for and think about what we all wish we needn’t be thankful for next year. Now, please pass the stuffing.